The Toronto Raptors swept the season series from the Minnesota Timberwolves for the eighth time in 10 seasons as point guard Kyle Lowry refused to let his team lose on the boards or on the score sheet. Lowry accumulated a 20 point 12 rebound 11 assist triple-double in the 111-104 victory.
“Kyle’s triple-double was huge for us tonight,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey. “We needed all of his assists, we needed all of his buckets and we needed all of his rebounds. It was a great effort on his part.”
This was Lowry’s second big game against Minnesota this season as he definitely has Ricky Rubio’s number. In Toronto, Lowry hit 6 three-pointers as he led all scorers with 24 points and added 5 rebounds and 6 assists while the Raptors held their own on the boards. However, in Minnesota, the Timberwolves big front line of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic helped keep their team in the game by crushing the Raptors on the offensive glass by a 10-2 margin in the first half and Toronto only led by 1 point despite shooting over 50 percent from the field at the break.
In the second half it was a different story on the boards as the Raptors, led by 9 rebounds from their starting point guard, out-rebounded the Timberwolves 28-14 and took control of the game.
Kyle and DeMar (DeRozan) down the stretch really turned it on,” Casey said. “Kyle stuck his nose in there, penetrated, accepted a challenge and I thought they just did a heck of a job just putting their heads down and driving to the bucket. (They) came up with some big stops down the stretch and that was the game.”
Lowry grabbed 4 offensive boards in the second half and seemed to be everywhere at once. DeRozan appeared to be having a quiet night, but he scored 10 points in the fourth quarter on route to a team high 25 points.
This game started and finished at the Timberwolves pace as the first quarter ended 33 all and the fourth quarter saw 28 points each put up. However, in the middle of the game, the Raptors were able to impose their will and hold their opponents to just 37 percent shooting while outscoring them 50-43.
Unlike Minnesota’s trip to Toronto, both Love and Pekovic had big games. Love may have put together one of the quietest near triple-doubles ever with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. Pekovic contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds, Kevin Martin had 20 points and Corey Brewer had 17. The rookie Shabazz Muhammad kind of outshone Love in the fourth quarter with a very active 6 points, but overall, the Timberwolves got very little out of their bench.
The Raptors got 15 points from each of Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Steve Novak. Novak was filling in for the injured Patrick Patterson and hit 5-6 three-pointers off the bench. The Raptors reserves dominated the Timberwolves bench 32-16.
This was the Raptors 35th win of the season and with the victory they remain a full game ahead of Chicago for third place in the Eastern Conference and 4 games ahead of Brooklyn atop the Atlantic Division. This is only the seventh time in franchise history that the team has won 35 games in a season and in 5 of the 6 previous occasions, the Raptors were a playoff team.
Toronto immediately heads to Brooklyn for an Atlantic Division battle against the Nets on Monday.
The Timberwolves have now lost 2 of 3 games in a 4 game home stand against Eastern Conference opponents to drop their record to 31-31 and 5.5 games out of a playoff spot in the West with only 20 games left to go. It looks like Minnesota will be making their 10th consecutive trip to the NBA draft lottery in the near future.
Milwaukee visits the Target Center on Tuesday, but the Timberwolves have likely let too many opportunities to move up pass them by already.
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